Spanish Club, Melbourne 25-08-06

Where do I start? This was a night of big music. Unfortunately I missed opener Marcel Borrack (although I've seen him before and he plays nice acoustic songs), but both Pivot and Bluebottle Kiss have huge, larger-than-life live sounds. Pivot's psychedelic experimental booty shaking sound fills the room, and your mind, while Bluebottle Kiss are one of those bands that are big. Really big. Not as in they have 23 members wearing flowing coloured robes. No. But their sound and emotion when they play live is just... really big. 

Pivot had fans in the crowd and undoubtedly won over more with their four-piece instrumental 'post-rock'. I hate giving it that label, but it is the most apt. They have a solid rhythm section, with the drummer especially seeming to really enjoy playing. The guitars were generally fuzzy and scratchy, and the keyboards provided a lot of the melodies. Their songs are well-constructed, even with the absence of words. A song might start with some plodding, meandering momentum before exploding in a chorus-like burst of intensity and excitement. There are numerous progressions in each song, and this element, along with some Spanish-styled guitar noodling, leads me to draw a slight comparison with the Mars Volta. Pivot's sound also encompasses some experimental sounds, along with some good dance-rock, towards the Wolf & Cub camp. 

With this combination of elements, Pivot would be an ideal band to get a dancefloor happening at a party. Unfortunately in the aloof habitat of the Melbourne independent music scene, dancing at a gig is a no-go zone. Sometimes I weep for their souls, and for my own too, because I was too self-conscious to challenge this sacred cow. I wanted to dance, but could not bring myself to. In conclusion; Pivot are great, and do not be afraid to dance.

Bluebottle Kiss had touted tonight's gig as a never-to-be-repeated, thirteen-piece band launch of their new double album, Doubt Seeds. They started their one hour and 50 minute set well-dressed in shirts and suits, and finished drenched in sweat from the ardour of their performance. I am pretty sure they played every song from their double album, in order, as well as older song Everything Begins and Ends at Exactly the Right Time for the encore. 

The first song, Your Mirror is a Vulture, opened up with cacophonous horns over wild, droning guitars. Singer Jamie Hutchings' passionate voice overrides the mass of sound. Into the next song and the two drummers on two drumkits boomed out a big, tribal beat. Dirty, churning guitars flow with and beyond the beat as Jamie's voice gives out a tortured quality. He definitely seems to get emotionally involved in the performance of these songs. He's not afraid to stretch his voice until it is strained and breaking. This was especially evident on The Weight of the Sea, with a quiet, bare beginning with a muted trumpet, reminiscent of 1920s jazz, Jamie's voice was heartfelt honesty, and the whole song became like a well-choreographed dance. Each player knew their own turn intimately, performed well, and didn't steal the limelight.

Of course, there were times when the guitars stole the limelight. In a guitar-based band like this, it is not only inevitable, but completely necessary. In Sailor's Knot, for instance, the song devolved into a chaotic instrumental maelstrom with every instrument on stage going crazy. Jamie and lead guitarist Ben Grounds both threw their bodies around in a frenzy, in the same way that their sounds were being vaulted across the room. The Blackbirds had a similar guitar duel in the instrumental interlude, with Jamie and Ben throwing riffs at each other, not in time but opportunistically, whenever they had the chance to get a word in, like a fiery argument. People talk about 'organised chaos' - sometimes I think this is an appropriate description for music, but in this case it was not. This chaos was not organised, but certainly understandable. It simply conveyed so many emotions and ideas so fiercely. It was this exchange that drew the biggest cheers for the night.

Bluebottle Kiss also have a penchant for subtlety and nuance. Little Disappearer was one of these occasions, with its restrained, finger-picked guitar. Harold Holt was also a masterpiece in terms of expressing meaning musically. The percussion was like the washing of waves on a beach, the guitar as though the tide were coming in. Jamie's voice carried over the top like a brisk wind, and the wordless bridge functioned like a rip, dragging the song out to sea. It's these opportunities to shine that Bluebottle Kiss grasps so well.

Jamie Hutchings, the mastermind behind Bluebottle Kiss, seems to have no inhibitions about using his music to articulate the heights and depths of experience- and he's also got no inhibitions about dancing at a Melbourne rock gig. During Miranda, he stepped down into the crowd, grabbed a random girl, and started dancing with her, twirling her, without worrying about looking like a nong. There's a lesson here folks- Jamie says it's OK to dance.




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